SCIO briefing on the work of procuratorial, judicial and public security authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Wednesday morning in Beijing to introduce the efforts being made by the procuratorial, judicial and public security authorities to support the resumption of work and production in accordance with the law during the COVID-19 outbreak. February 27, 2020

Southern Metropolis Daily:

We have noticed that the number of new COVID-19 cases, which had been declining, has rebounded in recent reports, mainly due to a recent surge in cases reported at five prisons in Hubei, Zhejiang and Shandong provinces. How was the epidemic spread at these prisons? How is the treatment of the infected prisoners progressing? Thank you.

Xiong Xuanguo:

The question you raised doesn't have much to do with the theme of today's press conference, but the issue has been of great concern to all sectors of society. As such, I would like to make a response here.

As of Feb. 25, namely yesterday, a total of 555 confirmed cases, 19 suspected cases and four severe cases have been reported at five prisons in the three provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang and Shandong, which are the same prisons mentioned a few days ago. So far, there have been no cases of prisoners dying from contracting COVID-19 and no infections at other prisons across the country.

With regard to your question of how the epidemic spread in prisons, I would say that the spreading reflects certain flaws in prison management on epidemic prevention and control. First, there has been a lack of attention paid to the issue. The Wuhan Women's Prison in Hubei province, for example, is only 100 meters from the Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital. The officers at the prison commute used the same bus stop that patients had used, who traveled to the hospital before the city underwent lockdown. This could have caused the introduction of the coronavirus. Second, strict management is not in place. The outbreak in prisons like Hanjin Prison in Hubei province, Shilifeng Prison in Zhejiang province and Rencheng Prison in Shandong province, were caused by some prison officers failing to report contact with people from the epidemic area of Hubei province and isolate themselves thoroughly after contact, which led to imported cases.

The epidemic spread in prisons has fully exposed a lack of deep understanding on the issue, lax management of officers, weak implementation of prevention and control measures, and serious problems of formalism and bureaucracy in work at these places. The local governments have taken tough accountability measures. The lesson from the prison outbreaks is so profound that the national prison system will resolutely implement the spirit of the important speeches and instructions made by General Secretary Xi Jinping, fully recognize the particularity, complexity, gravity and extreme importance of epidemic prevention and control in prisons, and undertake strict fully-enclosed management with strict implementation, liability and accountability so as to resolutely eliminate loopholes in prison administration and contain the epidemic spread in prisons. Meanwhile, we will do our best to provide relief. Prisoners who develop a fever and respiratory symptoms will immediately be quarantined for medical observation. Prisoners diagnosed with COVID-19 will be given timely assistance equal to other members of society. At present, one severely ill prisoner is no longer in a serious condition following treatment, and another 11 patients have recovered. Thank you.

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